Saturday, August 29, 2009

It's not getting any easier

When I said just two days ago that "circumstances are conspiring to make it more and more likely that is the year someone finally rises up and dethrones USC in the Pac-10," I had no idea how right I was:
USC receiver Ronald Johnson will be out six to eight weeks after breaking his collarbone during the No. 4 Trojans' mock game.
Ouch. And what must be particularly painful for USC fans is this line, which shows up in about the fourth paragraph of the AP story:
Johnson was hurt during the second series of the mock game when he was tackled after catching an underthrown 34-yard pass from Barkley.
There's nothing more encouraging than when a bad pass by your starting QB results in a broken collarbone for one of your top offensive weapons.

As usual, USC is stacked at receiver -- former five-star recruit David Ausberry (yes, pretty much everybody on USC is a former five-star recruit) will step into the starting lineup -- but replacing Johnson's 33 catches, eights touchdowns and general explosiveness won't be easy. And even more importantly, if there wasn't already enough pressure on Matt Barkley, he's now lost half of his starting receiving corps before the season has even started. Damian Williams, who transferred from Arkansas along with Mitch Mustain and was a revelation last year as USC's leading receiver, will continue to be the go-to guy, but he'll also get a little more attention from opposing defenses this season now that Johnson's speed has been removed from the lineup.

I'll repeat what I said originally: With all the obstacles USC is facing this year -- freshman QB, almost entirely new defense, every meaningful game on the road, and now a nearly season-long injury to a starting receiver -- if the Trojans once again win the Pac-10 and finish in the top five, Oregon and Cal might as well call it a day and move to the WAC until Pete Carroll retires.

Although if it makes those teams feel any better, they can check out these SportsNation polls results, which of course are unbiased and come entirely from educated voters:

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